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VOL 3, NO 6

A STUDY TO INVESTIGATE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SELF-ESTEEM


AND MORAL JUDGMENT
Sumaera Mehmood
M.Phil (Education) at Foundation University Islamabad, Pakistan

Nasir Ahmad
PhD scholar (Education) at Foundation University Islamabad, Pakistan

Shafqat Hussain
PhD scholar (Education) at Foundation University Islamabad, Pakistan

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Kiran Joseph

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M.Phil (Education) at Foundation University Islamabad, Pakistan

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Abstract

The current research was undertaken to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and

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Moral Judgment among students. The study sample consisted of 81 students and the data

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were collected from 3 different schools (i.e. Asif Public School, House of Secondary

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Education and Al-Ameen Public School Rawalpindi). The sample consisted of students of

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ages 13 to 18 years. Self-esteem Scale of Raffia(1999), comprising 29 items, was used to

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measure self-esteem while the Urdu version of Padua Moral Judgment scale, originally

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developed by Anna L. ( Communion & Uwe P. Gielen 2001), was used to measure moral

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judgment. Padua Moral Judgment Scale was a 28 items objective test grouped in four parts.
Eleven social values are assessed in the scale including contract, affiliation, life, property,
law and legal justice. It was hypothesized that high levels of self-esteem result in high
levels of moral judgment but results of the present research showed that higher stages of
moral judgment are not related with High Self-esteem.
Key Words: Self Esteem, Moral judgment
Introduction
Self-esteem is a significant constituent of personality. It is a way of assessing ones
feelings, values, attitudes, fears, strengths and weaknesses (Burger & Schonoling, 1993).
This refers how we feel about ourselves or how we value ourselves. Self-esteem is a key to
success in life. Although children cannot articulate a concept of self-worth until about age
eight, they show by their behavior that they have one. Self-esteem at this stage tends to be
global such as I am good and may depend on adulthood approval. As children grow up,
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evaluation of competence and adequacy becomes critical in shaping and maintaining a


sense of self-esteem or self worth. The development of Self-esteem is more affected by
others opinions and appraisals (Harper, Burkhans, and Dweek, as cited in Papalia, 1998).
Self-esteem plays an important role in ones nature and the degree of ones Self-esteem
ranges from high Self-esteem to low Self-esteem. It has an important part of a persons
personality. It is the relative balance of positive and negative feeling she/he has about
himself/herself. It may be greatly influenced by certain aspects of ones appearance and
background, or skills that are considered socially important. These features became
influential for children because they may seem to be sources of acceptance or rejection by

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others (Mickinng, 1976).

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People have a different view and concept about the universe, the place of man in it that

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leads to various systems of ethics, philosophy and reality. Thus, most often human

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relationship to the universe is described in terms of ones ethics, moral values, ideals,

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religions, which interrelate to and overlap each other. It is not hard to appreciate why ethics

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is vitally relevant to every person on the planet. Assessment of other peoples character is

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perhaps one of the most important moderators involved in interpersonal interaction such

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assessments are based on evaluation of the moral trajectories of individuals (Kupperman

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1991). Ethic is a code of values that guides our choices and actions. Essentially, it asks and

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attempts to answer the questions what is the purposes of my life? and how do I go about

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achieving it? The actions to answer it are conditional and motivated by some purpose.

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Hence it gives rise to the term morality that refers to the code of values each of us uses to
decide on the choices and actions we make (Honderich, 1995). American Heritage
Dictionary (2002) defines morality as a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. A
moral sense is inborn in man and through the ages it has served as the common means of
standard moral behaviors, approving certain qualities and condemning others. While this
instinctive faculty may vary from person to person, human conscience has consistently
declared certain moral qualities to be good and others to be bad. Justice courage and
truthfulness have always found praise. Similarly, in assessing the standards of good and bad
in the collective behavior of society as a whole, only those societies have been considered
worthy of honor which have possessed the virtue of organization, discipline, mutual
attention and compassion and which have established a social order based on justice,
freedom and equality (Mavldudi, 1948).

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As human beings, we live our lives in groups. Because we are interdependent, one persons
activities can affect the welfare of others. Consequently, if we are to live with one another -if society is to be possible -- we must share certain conceptions of what is right and what is
wrong. Each of us must pursue our interests, be it for food, shelter, clothing, sex, power or
fame, within the context of a moral order governed by rules. Morality involves how we go
about distributing the benefits and burdens of a cooperative group existence (Eisenberg,
Reykowski & Staub, 1989: Wilson, 1993). Moral development refers to the process by
which children adopt principles that lead them to evaluate given behaviors as right and
others as wrong and to govern their own actions in terms of these principles. If media

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interest is any indication, many Americans are quite concerned with the moral status of

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contemporary youngsters. And they look to the school to teach values to fill what they seem

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to be a moral vacuum.

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Historically, there have been three major philosophical doctrines regarding the

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moral development of children. One is the doctrine of original sin, favored by theologians

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such as Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430). According to the view, children are naturally

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sinful beings. As such they require redemption through the deliberate and punitive

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intervention of adults. Another view, put forward by John Locke (1632-1740), maintains

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that the child is morally neutral- a tabula rasa- and that training and experience determine

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whether the child becomes righteous or sinful. The third doctrine, represented by the

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writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), holds that children are characterized by
innate purity and that immoral behavior results from the corrupting influence of adults.
The Lickona model (1983) proposes a four components program designed to
facilitate moral behavior. The four components include self-esteem, cooperative learning,
moral reflection, and participatory decision-making. Lickona has collected data that
demonstrate that the systematic use of this model produces an increase in moral behavior
among students. Lickona (1983) defines self-esteem as a students sense of mastery or
competence. He contends that showing students that you respect their uniqueness as an
individual is powerful tool to raise their self-esteem. Higher self-esteem, writes Lickona,
leads to the greater likelihood of moral behavior. Meriwether (2003) in his article has
maintained that sanctions based upon emotional well-being or upon self-esteem are
insufficient for motivating consistent moral behaviour, and they reduce ultimately to
hedonism. This is also the case even in the hypothetical event that all moral action results in
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heightened self-esteem, and all immoral action results in lower self-esteem (Meriwether,
2003). The present study attempts to measure the relationship between self-esteem and
moral judgment. It attempts to show that if a teacher respects the uniqueness of a child
his/her moral judgment is also high. Higher self-esteem leads to greater likelihood of moral
judgment. But the result of this study shows a different picture of this model.
The present study has enormous implications in the field of personality psychology. The
purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and moral
Judgment.
The study aimed at the following objectives:
To find out the relationship of demographic variables with self-esteem and stages of moral

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To investigate the effect of high self-esteem on the stages of moral judgment of secondary

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judgment of the secondary school students.

To examine the effect of age difference on the stages of Moral Judgment and Self-esteem of

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school students.

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To explore the effect of number of siblings on the stages of moral judgment and self-esteem

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secondary school students.

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To find out the effect of parental income on the stages of moral judgment and selkf-esteem

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of secondary school students.

To analyze the effect of gender difference on the stages of moral judgment and self-estem

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of secondary school students.

vii.

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of the students of secondary school students.


To recommend practical measures for the high-ups in the light of the findings of the study.
The following hypotheses were formulated and translated in this study.
i.

High self-esteem is positively correlated with moral judgment.

ii.

Moral judgment and Slef-esteem amoung school childern differs on the basis of
gender difference.

iii.

Children who have less number of siblings shall have high level of moral values
and Self-esteem as compared to children with more number of siblings.

iv.

Self-esteem and Moral Judgment differs on the basis of students age difference.

v.

High and low levels of parents income will have effect on children self-esteem
and stages of moral judgment.

vi.

Higher self-esteem will lead to higher moral judgment

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METHODS
The research design employed in the present study was the social survey. The basic
idea behind the survey methodology is to measure variables by asking people questions and
then to examine relationships among the variables. Surveys attempt to capture attitude or
patterns of behavior. The present survey used the cross-sectional design, which asks
questions of students at one point in time. It was a small-scale survey involving probability
sampling, and a sample size of 81 respondents.
The sample of the study was randomly taken from the following public schools of

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Rawalpindi.
Asif Public School

ii.

House of Secondary Education

iii.

Al-Ameen Public School

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i.

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Two questionnaires were used to obtain information from the sample about the

ii.

Padua Moral Judgment Scale

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Repharezed version of Self-esteem

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relationship between self-esteem and moral judgments scales.

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Data were analyized through different tests i.e. T test, Mean, Standard Deviation,

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ANNOVA, Pearson r Percentages.

Self-esteem

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OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS OF VARIABLES

Self-esteem scale was at four point rating scale. This scale was taken from Qaid-e-azam
University. The self-esteem scale used to assess the self-esteem of the respondent. There
were 29 items the four response categories extremely true, some what true, neither true nor
false, and extremely false.

Moral Judgment
Urdu version of Padua Moral Judgment scale was used which was originally developed by
Anna L. (Communion & Uwe P. Gielen 2001). It was a 28 items objective test grouped in
four parts. Eleven social values are assessed including contract, affiliation, life, property,
law and legal justice. Each part consists of seven items (each items indicate a specific stage
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and mixed stage of Gibbs theory of moral Judgment) whose answer on four points rating
scale ranging from strong disagree to agree. For scoring, one score was assigned to strongly
disagree and four score was assigned to strongly agree. It also has two open ended
questions. Item no.1, item no.5, item no.7, item no.9, item no.10, item no.11, item no.15,
item no.17, item no.21, and item no.23 belonged to stage2 according to Gibbs Theory. And
item no.3, item no.13, item no.18, item no.20, and item no.24 belonged to stage1 according
to Gibbs Theory. While item no.4 and item no.27 belonged to stage3, according to Gibbs
Theory. And item no.2, item no.6, item no.8, item no.12, item no.14, item no.16, item
no.19, item no.22, item no.25, item no.26, and item no.28 belong to stage4 according to

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Gibbs Theory.

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RESULTS

Low Self-esteem

33

Moderate Self-esteem

29

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Groups

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Low, Moderate, and High Self-esteem Scores of the Students (N=81)

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High Self-esteem

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This table shows low, moderate, and high self-esteem scores of the students. The number

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students whose self-esteem was very high is very low while the number of students having

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low self-esteem is high. All items were positive. High scores on the scale reflect a higher
self-esteem. Scores were divided into three groups, scores for low self-esteem ranged from
44-57, moderate self-esteem from 58-71 and high self-esteem from 72-98.
Significance of the Difference between Mean Self-esteem of Male and Female
Students Scores.
Gender

Mean

SD

Male

48

64.16

11.48

Female

33

58.88

11.01

2.07

>.05

df=79, t at.05=1.99
Table 6 shows the mean Self-esteem scores of the male and female students. The
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results of the table shows that there was a significant difference between mean self-esteem
of male and female students. Self-esteem level was a higher among male as compared to
females. Females have a low level of self-esteem as compared to males.
Mean and Standard Deviation of the Scores of Different Stages of Moral Judgment
Scores of the Sample. (N=81).
Mean

SD

Stage 1

13.01

3.29

Stage 2

27.27

4.32

Stage 3

6.51

1.18

Stage 4

33.16

4.10

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Stages

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Table 12 shows the mean scores of Moral Judgment stages. The result of the table
shows that student in stage-4 are more developed as compared to stage-1, stage-2, and

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stage-3.

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Significance of Correlation between Self-esteem Scores and Stages of Moral Judgment

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Scores.

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Stages

Stage 3

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Stage 2

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Stage 1

Stage 4

Person r

0.08

0.47

-0.11

0.30

0.18

0.10

-0.06

0.57

df=79,

r at 0.05=0.217

The result of the table shows that there were no relationship between Self-esteem and moral
judgment. But as compare to other stages, stage-3 was statically correlated with self-esteem
as compared to other stages.

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Stages with Frequency of Students at Each Stage of Moral Judgments.


Stage1

Stage2

Stage3

Stage4

Total

No

No

No

No

No

20

25%

11

14%

26

32%

26

32%

81

100%

Table 14 shows that mostly (32% each) the students were at stage-3 and stage-4 as
compared to other stages (i.e. stage-1 and stage-2).

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CONCLUSIONS

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Based on the above findings, the followings conclusions were made:


No relationship was found between self-esteem and moral judgment.

ii.

No self-esteem differences were found between younger and older students. And

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i.

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also, no consistent differences in stages of moral judgment were found among

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Significant self-esteem differences were found between male and female

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younger and older students.

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students. Also, real moral judgment differences were found between the male

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and the female students at stages 3 and 4; whereas, they did not differ at stages 1
The Self-esteem and Moral Judgment scores differences between the low and

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and 2.

high-income groups were found non-sifnificant.


v.

No differences of self-esteem and Moral Judgment were found among students


with fewer and more number of siblings.

vi.

A greater number of students were on stage-3 and stage-4 in Moral Judgment


scores.

vii.

Majority of students were having low levels of self-esteem.

viii.

Stage-1 (13 to14 yrs olds) and stage-3 (16 yrs olds) group percentage was low as
compared to other stages (stage-2 and stage-4) so that results show those
students were developed in some stages of Kohlbergs and Gibbs stages.

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DISCUSSIONS
The present research aimed to analyze the relationship between self-esteem and moral
judgment. The main purpose was to determine the correlation between self-esteem and
moral judgment. To achieve this purpose, two instruments were administered to measure
self-esteem: 1) self- esteem scale (of Riffai 1999) 2) translated version of Padua Moral
Judgment scale (PMJS) (of Ann.L.Comunian & Gielen, 2001).
The psychometric properties were determined for both the scales, which proved to
be satisfactory. The inter items of both the scales indicated a high internal consistency with

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the total of both the scales.

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Kohlberg (1987) proposed that this theory of moral development is cross culturally

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valid. The universality of the stage theory of moral development was also put into test by

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many other researches (e.g. Gielen, 2001; colboy and Kohlberg, 19887). For the present

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research Gibbss (1992) revised four stage moral development model was used (as later

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researches using Kohlbergs theory in different cultures found no claims for stage 5 and

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stage 6. Miller 1990 and Gardines 1998). The self-esteem scale used to assess the self-

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esteem to the respondents developed by Raffia (1999).

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First of all the study hypothesized that there is a relationship between stages of

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moral judgment and self-esteem. However, it was found that the relationship between stages
of PMJS and self-esteem scores was non-sifnificant. Thus, the study revealed that higher
stage of moral reasoning is not related with self-esteem or vice versa. The first stage was
negatively correlated with self-esteem.the value founded in the first stage was 0.08 which
means the results were non-sifnificant because the significant level for r is r=0.217(see table
13). This indicates that there is no relationship between self-esteem and stage 1 of Moral
Judgment. And the stage-2 of the self-esteem was negatively correlated (r=-.11) at the
significant level r at=.05(see table 11). This indicated that the relationship was negative.
The stage-3 was also non-sifnificant (r=.18) but comparatively it was more related to the
self-esteem as compared to other stages. This implies that the students who have high selfesteem will be in stage-3 of moral judgment and the stage-4 is negatively correlated with

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self-esteem (r=-.06) which implies that the students who have high self-esteem will be in
stage-1 of moral judgment.
On the basis of literature review it was hypothesized that there are significant gender
differences in self-esteem levels of the students; in this case the result of the study supports
the hypothesis. The results show a significant difference (t=2.07) between self-esteem
levels of the boys and girls (see table 6).
Findings show that girls have low self-esteem as compared to boys. There are many
researches that strengthened these findings. O Malley and Bachman (1983) concluded that

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girls have low self-esteem as compared to boys. Simmons and Rosenberg (1975) also

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showed the pre-adolescent girls scored lower than boys on self-esteem.

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It was hypothesized that the gender difference will effect on the stages of moral

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judgment. The study shows a significant difference in gender with respect to the stage-3 and

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stage-4 of the moral judgdment (t=2.00 & 3.00) (see table 7). It implies that moral judgment

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of the girls is higher as compared to the boys in stage-4. It shows that the girls are morally

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more developed in stage-1 as compared to the boys. There was an non-sifnificant difference

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on the scores of others stages ( i.e,. stage 1, and stage2) of Moral Judgment which is in

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(Gielen & Communion, 2001).

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accordance with the claim of other researchers who did cross cultural research in this regard

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The study also hypothesized that the age will effect the self-esteem and stages of
moral judgment of the students. Older students self-esteem is higher than the younger
students. And stages of moral judgment show significant differences and confirmed the
stage progression hypothesis. Interestingly stage-3 was statistically significant as compared
to other stages (stage-1, stage-2 & stage-4). Also a major group of respondents gave
judgments at stage-2 and stage-4 form all the age groups (i.e., 13 to 14 years and 15 to 18
years), which tends to support Millers (1990) claims that Indian people emphasize
interpersonal considerations in rendering a moral decision. It is also evident from the fact
that in Pakistani collectivistic society relationships are more important.

However, no

significant relationship between self-esteem and moral judgment were found.

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Another assumption related to socio-economic status was that student of low


parental income have low self-esteem as compared to students of middle parental income.
In many studies, parental income has been divided into three levels, low, middle and high.
It was hypothesized that students of low parental income have low moral judgment.
But findings indicate no difference between the two groups. It implies that there is no
significant difference between parental income and moral judgment. It also shows that
parental income has no-significant difference at stages of moral judgment. These finding
show that the students with middle parental income have high self-esteem and moral
judgment (see table 8 & 9). These findings also show a negative correlation between self-

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esteem and moral judgment.

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It was hypothesized that children who have less number of siblings have high self-

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esteem as compared to children who have more number of siblings. It was assumed that

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there were non-sifnificant differences between the two groups. The hypothesis is rejected by

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the results (see table 10)

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It implies that children with less number of siblings are morally developed in the

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stages of Padua Moral Judgment. The result of the study shows there are non-sifnificant

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differences on the stages of Padua Moral Judgment.

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The content analysis of the two open-ended questions given at the end of PMJS

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show mixed results of the stages of PMJS. In stage-1 and stage-4, the scores are frequently
higher than other stages (i.e. stage 2 ,stage 3) and the female scores are higher than the male
scores.
In the stage-4, the relevant response was higher in the 16 years group as compared
to irrelevant responses in the 16 years age group. In no group the percentage is equal to
100% because many students did not answer all the questions; they ignored many items.
These students do not seem to have understood the objective of the study. There is a limited
number of students of ages 17 to 18 years included in the study, whereas, a large number of
students of ages 15 to 16 years was included in the study. The mixed results of the relevant
and irrelevant categories for lower and higher age groups are probably because of social
desirability.

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The number of students with low self-esteem (N=33, scores=668) was higher than
the number of students having high self-esteem (N=19, scores=1046). As regards Moral
Judgment stages, more number of students was on stage-3 and stage-4 as compared to other
stages (stage-1 and stage-2). So that average scores were also high at stage-4 (M=33.16)
and stage-2 (M=27.27) as compared to other stages i.e. stage-1 (M=13.01) and stage-3

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(M=6.51) (see table10).

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